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Downscaling global land-use/land-cover projections for use in region-level state-and-transition simulation modeling

July 1, 2015

Global land-use/land-cover (LULC) change projections and historical datasets are typically available at coarse grid resolutions and are often incompatible with modeling applications at local to regional scales. The difficulty of downscaling and reapportioning global gridded LULC change projections to regional boundaries is a barrier to the use of these datasets in a state-and-transition simulation model (STSM) framework. Here we compare three downscaling techniques to transform gridded LULC transitions into spatial scales and thematic LULC classes appropriate for use in a regional STSM. For each downscaling approach, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) LULC projections, at the 0.5 × 0.5 cell resolution, were downscaled to seven Level III ecoregions in the Pacific Northwest, United States. RCP transition values at each cell were downscaled based on the proportional distribution between ecoregions of (1) cell area, (2) land-cover composition derived from remotely-sensed imagery, and (3) historic LULC transition values from a LULC history database. Resulting downscaled LULC transition values were aggregated according to their bounding ecoregion and “cross-walked” to relevant LULC classes. Ecoregion-level LULC transition values were applied in a STSM projecting LULC change between 2005 and 2100. While each downscaling methods had advantages and disadvantages, downscaling using the historical land-use history dataset consistently apportioned RCP LULC transitions in agreement with historical observations. Regardless of the downscaling method, some LULC projections remain improbable and require further investigation.

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